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Cheaper than facial surgery, Botox cosmetic injections surge in popularity
Dr. Herbert Nassour said the area and the nation have seen a surge in patients interested in getting Botox cosmetic injections, which paralyze selected facial muscles for several months and ease the appearance of wrinkles.
Cheaper than facial surgery, Botox cosmetic injections surge in popularity

EL PASO -- Concerns about the economy might cause people to develop more furrowed brows and deeper worry lines, but the shaky times also have many searching for inexpensive ways to iron out those wrinkles.
Dr. Herbert Nassour said the area and the nation have seen a surge in patients interested in getting Botox cosmetic injections, which paralyze selected facial muscles for several months and ease the appearance of wrinkles.
"I'm not thinking it's necessarily because they want Botox itself, more like it's just the economy has everybody spooked," said Nassour, a plastic surgeon. "Instead of having a surgical procedure, they're trying less expensive solutions for some of their problems. Instead of taking out the wrinkles they're covering them up."
He said he has seen fluctuations in the number of clients turning to him for more expensive cosmetic surgery, such as facelifts, in the last year. Ups and downs in those procedures were rare before the economic downturn, he said.
Meanwhile, interest in Botox has climbed steadily at his office and others in the area.
Botox is made from purified protein derived from the Clostridium botulinum bacteria -- the same bacteria that causes the disease botulism.
Dr. Karen Herman, of the Dermatology and Aesthetic Center of El Paso, said interest in Botox waned slightly toward the end of 2008, but has since grown.
"Now that things are getting better (economically) people are more apt to get it done," she said. procedures, that's the one that's stayed the most stable."
Nassour agreed that the difference in price is significant for people choosing Botox. Patients pay about $400 to treat a portion of the forehead with Botox compared to $7,000 to $12,000 for a full facelift.
The effects of Botox, however, last only a few months. Improvements from cosmetic surgery can last for years.
"These men and women know they want it and will do it eventually, but they have their priorities. They have to feed their families. They have bills to pay or jobs to find," Nassour said.
Dr. R. Dale Reynolds said requests for Botox in his office have climbed during the past year, but so have requests for other cosmetic procedures. He said he administers Botox to patients daily.
"People are leery of the big procedures because they aren't sure about the future, but they're still OK with $200 for a Botox treatment," he said.
For many, though, he said the ease of the procedure and its increased acceptance are also big factors in their decision to get Botox.
"It's been a popular treatment for a long time. As more people use it, it becomes more common and more accepted in general, and more and more people are considering it," said Reynolds, a plastic surgeon. "I think people are a lot less apprehensive than they used to be."
The procedure takes about five to 15 minutes and is performed without anesthesia, though some doctors may first numb the area with an ice pack.
Herman said the injection feels similar to a mosquito bite, without the itching that follows the insect's bite.
The person performing the procedure will target specific sites for the injection based on which muscles are targeted for paralysis.
Herman said most patients return to their normal activities immediately with no visible indications they had the treatment.
She said the most common side effects are similar to those of any injection -- temporary redness at the site or a small bump.
Less common reactions are bruising, unexpected skin drooping, itching or slight flu symptoms.
Final results from Botox will be visible after a several days and will last several months.
Many people also opt to undergo the treatment in concert with fillers injected into other facial wrinkles, such as the laugh lines that appear near the mouth.
"Some people don't even want to consider a surgery to begin with, in good times or bad times, and Botox is such a quick and effective treatment," Herman said.
The widespread availability of the product also means consumers must use extra caution when selecting someone to perform the procedure.
"As insurance gets harder to deal with, a lot of the medical doctors are (beginning) cosmetic procedures because they perceive it as an easier way to make money for the practice," Reynolds said, adding that it is now advertised at many doctors' offices, including those of gynecologists and family practice doctors.
Physicians do not need special certification to perform the treatment.
"Though it's a relatively minor procedure, it can be a powerful drug, and if not used correctly it can cause some ugly results," Reynolds said. "The complication rate is higher if you don't know what you're doing."
He said that people in search of Botox treatment should try to have the procedure done by a plastic surgeon or dermatologist, both of whom have extensive training in the anatomy of the face.
Herman is a family medicine doctor with an emphasis on dermatology.
She said although many other doctors can get trained in the procedure and perform it well, she would prefer a plastic surgeon or dermatologist if having it herself.
She said prospective patients should ask about their doctor's training and experience.
Reynolds said many doctors performing the procedure have little to no training.
Some people administer Botox with no medical training at all.
The doctors said people should not have the procedure in someone's home, either their own or that of the person performing the procedure. In addition to a lack of training, they could be using an inferior or inappropriate product.
"I've had several patients coming in with complications from" injections administered by a physician's assistant in her home, Reynolds said. "They regret doing it after the fact. They think 'I'm going to save a little money,' but it turns out to be a bigger problem than you realize.
"If one eyebrow is down and one is up, it will be that way for four months."

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